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Health

The Single Most Important Thing to Know When Making Green Smoothies for Health

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If you’re a green smoothie nut like the rest of us here at One Green Planet, you probably already know that rotating your greens is just as important as using a high-quality blender. However, if you’re new to the green smoothie revolution and plant-based eating, welcome! Now it’s time you know about one incredibly important issue when it comes to making green smoothies for your health. You needn’t fret about many things when it comes to making smoothies, but there is something you’ll want to take into account if you make them daily.

Smoothies can technically be made with any green you like and there are no “wrong” greens to use in your smoothies.  But just like it’s not good to eat the same exact foods meal after meal each day, it’s also not the best idea to only stick to one or two greens for your smoothies. Why not, you ask?

Here are the top five reasons to rotate your greens in your smoothies:

 

1. Alkaloids

Alkaloids are a compound found in most all plants and they are not harmful to you, unless you get a concentrated amount from the same plant each day. This is proof the body likes some variety! Plus, some research shows that over time, a concentrated amount of one type of alkaloid can even lead to some digestive upset or intolerance to that food. Most all plants contain alkaloids, however those lowest in alkaloids include: lettuces, herbs, celery, asparagus, and arugula.

2. Oxalates

Oxalates belong to a group of molecules called organic acids, and are made by plants, animals, and humans. The human body naturally contains oxalates, which our cells create from other substances, such as Vitamin C. Our body can also use foods to produce them as well. Some greens such as spinach, chard, and beet greens naturally contain high amounts of oxalates, which have been linked to kidney stones due to a build-up of calcium deposits from a heavy consumption of oxalate-rich foods. Oxalates are found in other healthy foods besides greens, so do not fear them! Simply use oxalate-rich greens once or twice a week instead of every day. Greens low in oxalates include: kale, romaine, arugula, all lettuces, and most herbs except for parsley.

3. Goitrogens

This compound is found in the cruciferous family of plants including: broccoli, kale, arugula, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. An over consumption of goitrogens has been linked to hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) and some autoimmune disorders. This does NOT mean you should avoid these healthy veggies and greens- they offer loads of anti-cancer and hormonal benefits for your health. Just be sure to use only use goitrogen-rich ingredients a couple of times a week in your smoothies. Greens low in goitrogens include: romaine, herbs, spinach, collards, Swiss chard, and all lettuce varieties.

4. Taste

Your taste buds also crave variety! This is why if you eat the same foods everyday, pesky food cravings may arise. So change up your greens and other smoothie ingredients so you’ll always have something to look forward to.  It’s also great to get creative with your smoothie ingredients since it gives you a multitude of healthy ingredients each day. For example, try experimenting with the refreshing and cooling combination of romaine, frozen cucumber cubes,  green apple, and raspberries in your smoothie. Or try a more exotic combination of kale, acai, goji, frozen zucchini cubes, blackberries, and cilantro (a top favorite of mine)! Another awesome combo is arugula for a peppery bite, banana, blueberry, avocado, and celery.

5. Nutrition

Most importantly, all plants are filled with so many different nutritional properties that can enhance your health in a variety of ways. For example, if you like to work out, you can create an especially nutritious recovery smoothie. Smoothies are an awesome opportunity to add a boost of nutrients into your diet in a quick, easy way. And since nutrients are so easy to get in a whole foods, plant-based diet, there’s no excuse not to have a smoothie a day!

Check out all the nutrients that these greens, herbs  and green vegetables have and use them once or twice a week so you get a nice mix of each:

  • Spinach- Rich in Vitamins A and C, magnesium, fiber, protein, chlorophyll, and folate, spinach is an awesome green to use in your smoothies. Though it’s rich in oxalates, don’t avoid it. Just be mindful of how much you use per week.
  • Kale – Rich in Vitamin A and C, magnesium, fiber, protein, chlorophyll, folate, kale is king for all things green, including smoothies. Use baby kale and curly kale for a slightly less bitter taste. Dino kale, also known as lacinato or Tuscan kale, can have a stronger flavor when blended into smoothies though all kale is nutritionally equal.
  • Arugula– Rich in Vitamins A and  C, chlorophyll, magnesium, and fiber, this peppery green is a great way to add variety to your smoothies and give them an extra digestive benefit. Arugula has been shown to increase digestion and regularity. Pair it with a sweet fruit to balance out the slightly spicy flavor.
  • Dandelion Greens Known as one of the best “detox” greens, dandelion is a rich source of calcium, Vitamin C, magnesium, fiber, and chlorophyll. It has offers a pleasantly mild taste to smoothies and is a great rotation green since it’s extremely nutritious and low in goitrogens.
  • Beet Greens– Just like the root veggie, beet greens are an awesome detoxifying green as well. They’re rich in folate, antioxidants, Vitamin C, and fiber. Beet greens are also a good source of chlorophyll. Feel free to use the stems and all; they’ll give your smoothies an awesome pink hue!
  • Swiss Chard- This lovely green isn’t just made of good looks- those rainbow hues Swiss chard has are full of flavor and nutrition. Rich in Vitamin C, magnesium, chlorophyll, and protein, Swiss chard is slightly sweet and has a bit of a bite at the same time.
  • Romaine Lettuce– Don’t just use this veggie for salads alone- it’s an awesome green to use for so many reasons. First, romaine lettuce is more inexpensive in organic form than other greens when it comes to how much green you get for your buck. It’s also easy to find, and very low in alkaloids, oxalates, and contains no goitrogens. A whole head of romaine lettuce will give you omega 3’s, fiber, Vitamins A and C, and is especially full of water to keep you hydrated. It has a slightly sweet taste in smoothies but I suggest using less liquid since it does create a more watery smoothie than other greens.
  • Parsley- This herb is richer in chlorophyll than many other greens (which is why it’s a popular breath freshener) and it offers an awesome source of Vitamin C. It’s also very easy to digest and gives smoothies a pleasantly earthy flavor that’s extremely refreshing. Parsley is inexpensive with organic bunches usually costing less than $1.00 each. It’s even a natural diuretic so if you’re feeling the water weight, add some of this awesome herb to your smoothie. Problem solved!
  • Cilantro- This super detoxifying herb isn’t just for salsa, friends. It’s also exceptional in a smoothie! Nutritionally, cilantro is almost identical to parsley, though cilantro has specifically been tied to pulling heavy metals from the body and enhancing digestion.
  • Celery – Celery is also a fabulous green to use in your smoothies and is made for so much more than just for snacking with almond butter. Rich in Vitamin C, fiber, very low in alkaloids, oxalates, and goitrogen-free, this green makes a perfect slimming green to add since it fills you up and helps beat bloat. It’s also an awesome source of electrolytes providing sodium and potassium, along with the mineral magnesium. 

Try these other nutritious ingredients in your smoothie rotation for variety and nutrition:

  • asparagus
  • zucchini
  • cucumber
  • amaranth greens
  • broccoli
  • water cress
  • turnip greens
  • mustard greens (These are very spicy, be aware before using!)
  • basil
  • mint
  • all lettuce varieties
  • fennel

* *Remember, just because you hear how healthy a green or veggie is, doesn’t mean it’s the only one you should eat.  It’s also important not to fear any green or veggie because you hear it’s linked to health issues- just be sure not to eat it everyday and you should be fine. Visit your produce section and scope out all the organic greens an pick a few new ones and try something new!

Also be sure to check out:

What’s your favorite greens to use in green smoothies?

 Image Source: Stacy Spensley/Flickr

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